Sunday, January 31, 2010

Looking for a place to set up Bon Repos Clinic

Today we went to visit Dr. Margaret Blaise's Clinic, a pediatrician who was enthusiastic about giving a space for us in her clinic once a week to run a clinic for the people at Bon Repos. Her house was damaged by the earthquake and she was living in the clinic. She barely escaped being crushed by the water tower that would have landed on her and her car as she pulled away from the parking space just before the earthquake hit.

In the afternoon Kerline and I visited the school that was damaged by the earthquake, its space was to be used by her women who were to go to school after hours. We went across the street to visit the camp that housed some of the inhabitants who lost their homes. It was very hot and no one was at the camp. There were a couple of people with broken limbs in cast sitting in a car and wishing that they had some pain medications. We went back and found some for them.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Visit to Carrefour, the epicenter of the earthquake

I was on schedule for a 15 mile run but Gale told us that we would be leaving between 8 and 9 am. This time I ran past the border of Bon Repos and ended up in more deserted area but there were still areas of garbage and rubbles even beyond the town border. I only managed to do a 10-mile run. Running in Haiti was not easy, the air is very polluted and the dust is dense, I was sure it wasn't very healthy.

We left around 11 am! Susie left early this am with a 9 month-old baby, the parents wanted her to take the baby to the US to be away from the chaotic situation in Haiti. I wasn't sure it was a good idea to separate a nursing baby from her mother.

On the way to Carrefour, we saw tents set up in the medium strip of the road, hardly any space for the children to play. Gale spoke to the director of an orphanage, 56 of the 150 children died in the earthquake, she and her husband buried these 56 children in two separate graves in the back yard. Now the orphans slept in big tents on the street.

We saw the empty house that would serve as our new clinic at Carrefour. It was fairly big and seemed quite suitable for our needs. We hope to start our first session next Wednesday.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The houses that PID built

Gale and I left early again this morning with Dawn, the woman from Texas who came with 1500 pounds of donations, mainly old clothing, shoes, ensures, depends, wipes, powder, lotions, toothpaste, soaps...

About 50 odd US soldiers came to the clinic, perhaps for security reason. It seemed that Gale requested their presence because of a minor disturbance earlier in the week. One of the soldiers carried a man with a nasty cut in his foot. It took me some time to clean and dress it. We had no tetanus vaccine to offer him. Bennet, my interpreter and I worked well together.

In the late afternoon John took me for a tour of the PID houses. A group of children were calling "Blanche", and it finally dawned on me that they were calling any foreigners "Blanche" just as the children in Africa calling out "Mzungu". The PID house is a two-room house with a small front and backyard equiped with electricity. A lean to was built by the owner to serve as a kitchen. All the 40 houses built by PID withstood the earthquake. The children were busy at the well pumping water.

Samuel came in the evening to get his dressing changed. His vision seemed worse and his conjunctiva was red and we had no antibiotics. The fact that he had double vision made me think that his eye muscles were not moving freely. I advised him to visit the Israeli Hospital as I did not wish for him to lose his eye sight.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Back to Blanchard and a visit to Port-du- Prince

Last night was a lovely night for sleeping. There was a cool breeze and the moon was almost full, it cast its light gently on the Mango trees and the lawn. The Big Dipper was visible but soon dawn obscured it.

I rose early to leave for Blanchard with Gale hoping to see the houses that were built by PID. However upon arrival at the clinic there were already a few patients waiting. I ended up starting clinic early. The dog Sebut came looking for food. He was scrawny and covered with skin sores. Susie and Jenn came around 9:30am and we saw patients all morning through the early afternoon and stopped around 2 pm. We worked without stopping and it cracked us up when a young boy who was not a patient came sauntering in as if he owned the place and walked right up to me and leaned against me and smiled. He had his picture taken and just as soon as we were done he nonchalantly walked away.

This afternoon, Gale, Kerline and Susie and I went to Port-du-Prince for the first time. We drove through Cite Soliel which we were told is a gangster town. In Port- du-Prince, everywhere we looked there were collapsed houses, rubbles and dust. Many streets remained impassable. At one point we were greeted with a strong stench. There were US soldiers guarding the streets. We visited the camp across from the National Palace. People went about their daily activities sleeping, cooking, bathing in these temporary shelters all in a very crowded condition. Some of them looked hot and miserable, I really can't imagine being in such hopeless situation.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Clinic at Bon Repos

Last night was hot and humid. sleep did not come easily as the generator was on till 5 am. Some artists were busy painting sign for Ted's fuel relief effort. when the generator finally went off, the rooster's crowing could be heard. I got up then to venture out in the streets for my run.

A word about Ted's fuel relief effort, he runs a non-profit organization that delivers free fuel to disaster areas to enable the delivery of food, shelter and water possible and to also allow NGO's and non-NGOS to continue to function during period of fuel shortages since generators need fuel to run. This is no small contribution! His website is

Gale and Kerline decided that we should have a clinic in Bon Repos where we were staying. We set up a temporary clinic in the warehouse next to Kerline's house with some sheets rigged up in a corner for privacy. Susie and I saw patients while Jenn and Kerline did the triaging.

Even before we were ready, there were already patients waiting. My first patient was Samuel, a 16-year-old man who was hit in the left eye by a block. He was seen by Search and Rescue and received a cut in the upper eyelid and on the left cheek. I was the second medical person that he was seeing. When the dressing was removed, he had a lot of pus oozing from his eye, a lot of swelling and his vision was blurry. I was afraid that he also sustained a facial fracture that trapped one of his eye muscles. I removed his stitches and irrigated his eye as best I could, the lack of equipment made this job harder. I asked him to come back to Kerline's house every day for me to change his dressing and check on his vision. There was a man with a gangrenous fifth digit and we sent him to a hospital, a woman with a broken collar bone and anther with a broken tibia in a cast and she ran out of pain medications. Eventually we had to turn away some patients.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Second day at Blanchard

I needed to continue my training for the Paris Marathon in April so I had to resort to running around the compound numerous times to make up to 5 miles. I got really tired of running in circles, frightening a mother hen and her chicks. This reminded me of the time when I ran in the village of Maseno in Kenya and stepped on a chick walking along my path with its mother. Miraculously the chick got up and walked away unscathed after some grumbling noises made by the mother hen.

Only Susie and I ran the clinic, the rest of the crew went to Carrefour, the epicenter of the earthquake to assess the destruction and need. We decided to see 100 patients today and hoped that the triaging people would let us see the sicker patients first but it did not work out that way. Towards the end of the day, sicker patients who apparently had been waiting all day were finally noted by Gale and sent to the front to be seen. This created some small disturbance as temper flared because of the long wait for all concerned. We saw quite a number of malnourished kids, block injuries...

A young lady brought a baby who was the sole survivor of her family. Every one in her family perished in the collapsed home but her mother happened to send her to her next door neighbor for the afternoon. Was it fate? Another orphan added to the long list of orphans.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Our first day in the clinic at Blanchard

We got up early to sort through our supplies: food, antibiotics and bandages, etc. to bring to the clinic. At 10 am we left for the clinic. We had to take a detour through a market since the bridge that was to take us to Blanchard was deemed unsafe. The van wound its way along the river where there seemed to be a settlement in the midst of piles of refuse, women washing their clothes with water from the river that looked gray. This scene reminded me very much of the the slum close to River Road in Nirobi, Kenya. The heat was intense and throngs of people were selling and buying.

On the way to the clinic, we saw some tents at the Agriculture Department and people were lining for food. across the street was a bank and the line there was quite long as well.

The road to the clinic was winding and dusty. There were quite a number of houses that were destroyed by the earthquake and make-shift tents were rigged up next to these houses.

We arrived at the clinic which looked unfinished but the clinic rooms were cheerful and I like the white tiles which made the rooms so much brighter. Immediately when we arrived we were asked to see an old woman with an old stroke and another recent stroke a few days ago and a set of twins. We really could not do too much for this lady but did get an IV started in the afternoon for some hydration while she was lying in the tent.

One of my very first patients was a grandmother with crushed injuries to her calf. She was seen at another clinic and had some stitches. She walked in with a walking stick fashioned from the branch of a coconut frond, accompanied by her daughter who lost two of her children, a 3 and a 6-year-olds. She began to cry when I asked her about it through my interpreter, Benite. They also lost their home and needed food. Her wound was quite ugly and I cleaned it as much as she would allow me.
There were many more patients to see and I lost track of how many we saw that day. Almost everyone that we asked had lost some loved ones, homes or their homes were too unsafe to live in. They lived outside their homes or what was left of them in make-shift tents made out of sheets, plastic sheets or cardboard. There was a tremendous amount of sadness weighing on the shoulders of these Haitians.

When I was in Africa, It struck me that the African people are very resilient and always seem happy in the face of adversity. The People of Haiti seem to display the same kind of resiliency that I observed in Africans. How people continue to have the desire to live in situations that look completely hopeless is beyond comprehension. They remind me of the Zimbabwean refugees I met in Musina, South Africa.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day of departure for Haiti

Bags were packed but I was not able to stay focused. Marshy my cat seemed to know that I was leaving for a trip, I sensed she was not too happy.

In the airport, I met Gale, the Founder and Director of PID and other members of the assessment team: Kerline, John, Jeremiah, Jenn and Susie; we would have a doctor (me:Kwan Kew) and two nurses (Jenn and Susie). There were 20 bags, plenty of supplies and Jet Blue was kind enough to give us a break on our bag allowance.

We arrived at Santo Domingo at 3:45 am. Many other people came to talk to Gale, I just assumed they were her field workers helping her to arrange the next stage of our journey. I stole a snooze on the bench while waiting. At the airport we were also joined by Ted whose mission was to figure out how to deliver free fuel to Haiti.

We loaded our bags onto a van and 2 cars heading to the Caribe Tours bus station. There were no UN planes to be seen. There were many locals and other relief teams all trying to get into Haiti. It was several hours before we finally scrambled onto the bus towards the border of Haiti. It was almost 7 hours to the border. At the border we waited quite awhile to be processed. Then about an hour out of the border, the bus had a flat. We were lucky to be closed to a small tire shop and the tire was fixed before night fall.

It was dark by the time we reached the bus station. It was awhile before the taptap (local transport bus) came to get us escorted by a police car. The trip to the house we were going to stay was to take 20 minutes but we got lost in the dark but eventually stumbled into Kerline's father's house close to 9 pm. Auguste, Kerline's father was very generous in offering his house for our use, her uncle next door also opened his home to us. We set up our tents and had a late dinner and went to sleep.